Friday afternoon, a journalist began to type up a draft of his assignment: announcing that the Texas Rangers had won the World Series.
“In their second go-around,” he wrote, “the Rangers found a way to win.” He tentatively titled his story “Rangers in Seven, a Two Season Journey.” The journalist cited the Rangers’ excellent defense as well as their repose after a brutal Game 6 loss.
He provided space for would-be facts, like the pitcher’s [# of strikeouts] strikeouts and the crucial [type of hit] that earned [# of runs] in the decisive [which inning]. With attention to the Rangers season-long campaign, their post-season performance, and several explicit allusions to their previous World Series attempt against the Giants, this piece provided excellent context for the Rangers 2011 World Series win.
But it was never published, because the Rangers lost.
And somewhere out there you can find a heap of T-shirts and caps that say: Texas Rangers 2011 World Champions, never worn. Unopened champagne, unhung banners, unwaved flags all waited for the possible moment of being opened, being hung, being waved and celebrating victory – but they remain unopened, unhung, unwaved.
Everyone woke up to possibility and fell asleep to history. The one pile of hats and T-shirts were worn, the others will be placed in a museum of unhistory, where one can find relics reminding us of the possibilities spoiled by actualities. And the Cardinals came as close as possible to losing – twice, the ball in the pitcher’s hand was 60.5 feet from ending the game and bringing out those hats that are now piled up somewhere – but… one strike away is one strike away is still one strike away, and a good hit means you’re three strikes away again, and a walk-off home run means you’re a hero.
I’ve been obsessed with slow motion recently.
Very slow motion.
After Game 6, I watched Lance Berkman’s bottom-of-the-tenth hit slowed down about 2000%, which transformed a transient moment into a minute-long clip. A static ephemeron. You see the pitcher’s wrist flick back. You see the way Berkman’s legs begin to move as soon as the ball is in the air. A quick shrug of the shoulders that isn’t quick at all, when you watch it like this.
And the moment that the ball contacts the bat, viewed like this, is absolutely insane. Ninety-six miles of sewn velocity meets massive wooden force and the two objects hang on to each other for a great little while, discussing plans, finally settling on shallow center field, and the ball flies, the audience detonates, and then everyone calms down, and the moment is over.
That’s what’s so strange for me to imagine about the life of a professional baseball player: a whole year is devoted to one moment, and even when you win, you enjoy a few days of parades, dog piles, disbelief, and then… there’s next year. There’s next year for the losers, next year for the winner. You’ve won and now it’s time to try to win again.
There’s something very strange about human striving, goal-based as it is: the moment of achievement is as devastating as it is wonderful, because, yeah, you have what you were working for, but life’s still life and you’re still living it and what are you going to do now? The past can’t be accessed, the present moment is something so fleeting that it can’t be properly enjoyed until it’s already over, and the future is a gossamer-to-be, tenuous and flimsy and unconcerned with human striving.
So we slow down our moments, we stretch out our finitude, we scream at the top of our lungs, and we don’t know what we’re doing, but at least this year we won.